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Gimino: Georgia (football) on his mind

First-timer’s AP ballot picks Bulldogs as top team

Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops (standing, with visor) has the No. 2 team in the nation at the start of the season, according to Tucson Citizen sports columnist Anthony Gimino's Associated Press Poll ballot. Stoops is the brother of UA coach Mike Stoops.

Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops (standing, with visor) has the No. 2 team in the nation at the start of the season, according to Tucson Citizen sports columnist Anthony Gimino's Associated Press Poll ballot. Stoops is the brother of UA coach Mike Stoops.

I have a vote in The Associated Press top 25 college football poll for the first time, which I’m told will increase the quantity of my e-mail while decreasing the quality of whatever civility still exists.

I’m so looking forward to making new, uh, friends in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Or Austin, Texas.

Gainesville, Fla.

Hello, Columbus, Ohio.

Fans take this stuff very seriously, never mind that the AP vote has no direct bearing on the national championship chase.

The BCS standings use, as part of its overall ratings, the USA TODAY coaches poll (yeah, no conflict of interest there) and the Harris Interactive Poll, which is an eclectic mix of players, administrators and journalists past and present.

So, this AP thing . . . it’s just kind of for funsies. For the love of the game.

Anyway, I intend to take it all very seriously, and I already spent plenty of time this spring thinking about it when I largely conjured the preseason rankings for Lindy’s Football Annuals.

My preseason AP rankings will differ from those in Lindy’s for a couple of main reasons.

One, here I have the sole influence.

Two, I no longer have to predict how the teams will finish the season. I just have to list them according to how good I think they are right now.

The magazine ratings have to take into account how the teams will finish the season, which includes various permutations of schedule and conference affiliation.

Having the preseason rankings closely match the postseason rankings is considered a major selling point for the magazines. Lindy’s, for example, was deemed by The Wall Street Journal to have the most accurate top 25s for a five-year period ending with the 2005 season.

All that said, I’m sure I’ll be seeing a lot of all CAPITAL-LETTER SHOUTING in my e-mail future.

So, start the debate. Here is my preseason AP college football ballot:

1. Georgia

Why the Bulldogs? Seven-teen starters return from a team that won its final seven games last season. Sophomore RB Knowshon Moreno has the whole package and is a Heisman favorite. Good luck running against that defensive front seven.

Why not? The offensive line is still young, which is no way to be in the SEC.

2. Oklahoma

Why the Sooners? Along with LSU, Oklahoma has arguably the best pair of offensive and defensive lines in the country. Unlike LSU, the Sooners have a quarterback – and plenty else, too.

Why not? OU hasn’t exactly inspired confidence, losing its past four BCS bowls.

3. USC

Why the Trojans? Nobody has recruited better than Pete Carroll, and nobody has better linebackers and defensive backs.

Why not? Four new starters on the offensive line and one at quarterback.

All these new guys are talented. Experienced . . . not so much.

4. Ohio State

Why the Buckeyes? Ohio State is loaded with experience and adds a dash of freshman superstar Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. The Buckeyes should be even better than last season’s team, which back-doored its way into the national title game.

Why not? Hard to forget how poorly the Buckeyes fared in the past two BCS championship games. A Sept. 13 matchup at USC looms as a loss.

5. Florida

Why the Gators? Quarterback Tim Tebow is Mr. Heisman, and he’ll have at least some help this season from an improved situation at running back.

Why not? The defense is going to have to be much improved.

6. Missouri

Why the Tigers? Led by quarterback Chase Daniel and receiver Jeremy Maclin, this is one wonderful offense that returns from a 12-win team.

Why not? Mizzou lost twice to Oklahoma last season and still has to prove it is better than the Sooners.

7. Clemson

Why the Tigers? With quarterback Cullen Harper and running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller, this could be the best backfield in America.

Why not? The offensive line might get pushed around, and Clemson has trouble living up to high expectations.

8. Auburn

Why the Tigers? Always talented, Auburn’s conversion to a fast-paced, no-huddle spread offense should be one of the most interesting – and successful – experiments in college football.

Why not? A first-year starting quarterback will be in control of that new offense.

9. West Virginia

Why the Mountaineers? Dual-threat Pat White is still at quarterback.

Running back Noel Devine is an even more dangerous sidekick than Steve Slaton.

Why not? Does first-year coach Bill Stewart have the right stuff? Is there enough of a passing game?

10. Texas

Why the Longhorns? Not much buzz around Texas this year, but it’s a rock-solid program that has had seven consecutive 10-win seasons.

Why not? The defense was nonexistent late last season and will have to start living up to all those recruiting raves.

A few notes on the rest of the Top 25:

• I really like Penn State more now than I did in the spring, primarily because of the strength on both lines.

• Don’t sleep on Wake Forest in a jumbled ACC. The Deacons have at least nine-win talent.

• I’m not sure South Carolina can actually finish in the Top 25, given the strength of the SEC East. But, again, this isn’t a rating of where teams will end up, just how good they are.

Here are the rest of the rankings:

11. LSU

12. Wisconsin

13. Texas Tech

14. Penn State

15. BYU

16. Wake Forest

17. South Florida

18. Arizona State

19. Kansas

20. Tennessee

21. Pittsburgh

22. South Carolina

23. Illinois

24. Fresno State

25. California

One final thought: I am absolutely positive I will never do another preseason top 25 that omits Michigan, Notre Dame, Miami, Florida State and Nebraska.

GIMINO’S TOP 25

1. Georgia. 2. Oklahoma. 3. USC. 4. Ohio State. 5. Florida. 6. Missouri. 7. Clemson. 8. Auburn. 9. West Virginia. 10. Texas. 11. LSU. 12. Wisconsin. 13. Texas Tech. 14. Penn St. 15. BYU. 16. Wake Forest. 17. South Florida. 18. ASU. 19. Kansas. 20. Tennessee. 21. Pittsburgh. 22. South Carolina. 23. Illinois. 24. Fresno State. 25. California.

Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: agimino@tucsoncitizen.com

———

UA FOOTBALL KEY DATES

Saturday: Newcomers report

Monday: First practice, 6:15-8:30 a.m., Rincon Vista complex, Plumer Avenue and 15th Street

Aug. 14-16: Workouts in Fort Huachuca

Aug. 23: Fan Appreciation Day, scrimmage, 10:30 a.m., Arizona Stadium

Aug. 30: Opener vs. Idaho, 7 p.m., Arizona Stadium

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